Before we get into anything, I want to say that I love my Parramatta Eels and anything that I have written in this week’s column is not out of hate but out of love and frustration of my beloved club.
I sit here writing this feeling worse about the Parramatta Eels Football Club today then I did all last year, and 2016 for Parramatta was one of the worst times in any club’s history for any sport. Now to say this is a pretty big call, I understand that. But when I watched my favourite team play the New Zealand Warriors this past weekend, I didn’t care about the result. I didn’t care, because 95% of the players playing didn’t care. There was one, maybe two of the players giving their all out there. I didn’t want to watch the game anymore after half-time yet I stuck it out, but nope, more of the same. Last year Parramatta might not have been playing for a semi-final’s appearance for half the year, but they were playing for their own pride and they were playing for their fans. This year they’re playing for actual competition points and to try and lift the premiership trophy. I just don’t get it.
The first two rounds of the season for Parramatta went very well winning both quite comfortably, one against a Manly team nobody expected to do anything this year and against the high-flying Dragons, who sit at the top of the ladder after six rounds. Then came round three, Corey Norman was ruled out which is a big blow to have your star player not playing, but I was still confident after seeing how well we played the first two games. Fifteen minutes into that match-up everything was going great, Eels up 12-0 against the understrength Gold Coast Titans, I thought here we go, this is what I wanted to see. But from that point on the Eels went into some sort of auto pilot mode and this is exactly the way they have been playing ever since. Now I know it’s impossible for a team to play perfectly for 80 minutes’ week in week out for 26 rounds, but it’s not impossible for them to try their hardest and have energy and effort every week.
Parramatta’s attack in the past few weeks has been poor, scoring less than 20 points a game for the last month, but I would rather focus on their defence. I’ve noticed something horrifying, all starting from that Titans game. The first two rounds they gave up 12 and 16 points which is fine, not amazing, but normally good enough to win games. The next four rounds they have given up a total of 98 points averaging 24.5 points a game. Not good enough to win any game in the NRL. At the same time as this is happening, the style of defence the Eels are playing is horrible. It doesn’t matter where they are on the field, whether it be on the opposition’s 30m line or 20m out from their own try line trying to stop the opposition from scoring, they are really condensed into two thirds of the field, the opposition teams are having a field day. If the attacking team gets a quick play the ball away into a block play for the backs, it makes the Eels outside backs rush in to stop the play and if they miss (like they have been with the lack of effort and energy) then the opposition team has an easy twenty meters outside either Josh Hoffman or Semi Radradra, draw and pass with the full-back, easy try. I’m not saying it’s the players fault because they’re following the game plan but it is their fault for not recognising teams doing this and not adapting to the play and continually letting the same play work repeatedly.
I hate to criticise Brad Arthur because of everything he has done with and for the Parramatta club over the past two years, but it’s quite clear that something must change. In his after-match press conference he said that he was happy with their effort against the Warriors, WHAT EFFORT BRAD?! They looked like they didn’t want to be there after twenty minutes and I don’t know if it was in the game plan or not, but why were they kicking for the sideline after every set? Then the players would casually walk to the scrum. Does that sound like a team whom is down 22-10 with ten minutes to play that cares about the result? Not to me it doesn’t.
I think Parramatta fans are the best in the world. Unless you’re in your 30’s you’ve never seen Parramatta win a premiership and they haven’t made the finals since 2009, but they are continually one of the best supported teams in the competition. I will support the Parramatta Eels forever but I need more than just players on the field. The fans and I need and deserve a team that wants to be there and wants to give 100% every single week. Of course, I want the Eels to win every game, but I’m okay if they lose if they’ve left everything out on the field. It’s okay to lose to a better team on the day, but it’s not okay to lose to yourself before you step foot on the field, but that’s just my two cents.
If you’d like to hear some of my other thoughts and tips for the week, check out my Rugby League show on YouTube called Shut The Gates. There’s a new episode up weekly where we talk about all the hot topics and issues on and off the field. Watch below: